When you need a quick summary of the essentials, rather than the whole story or a thorough explanation, you're looking for the gist.

The word gist has had a variety of meanings in English, but most of them have become obsolete. The surviving sense of the word entered the language by way of the law: The gist of any legal action is the factor on which the action depends — that is, an alleged assault might be the gist of an indictment. The meaning of gist has evolved, though, and now it can be used to describe the core component of any matter, as in, "He watched the trailer, but he still didn't get the gist of the movie." Or, "She was having trouble writing a headline that conveyed the gist of her article."

Definitions of gist
  1. noun
    the central meaning or theme of a speech or literary work
    synonyms: burden, core, effect, essence
    see moresee less
    type of:
    import, meaning, significance, signification
    the message that is intended or expressed or signified
  2. noun
    the choicest or most essential or most vital part of some idea or experience
    “the gist of the prosecutor's argument”
    synonyms: center, centre, core, essence, heart, heart and soul, inwardness, kernel, marrow, meat, nitty-gritty, nub, pith, substance, sum
    see moresee less
    show 5 types...
    hide 5 types...
    bare bones
    (plural) the most basic facts or elements
    (metaphysics) essential nature or underlying reality
    haecceity, quiddity
    the essence that makes something the kind of thing it is and makes it different from any other
    distillation, quintessence
    the purest and most concentrated essence of something
    a critically important or characteristic component
    type of:
    cognitive content, content, mental object
    the sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered, or learned
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week